Words of Hope to the Class of 2019
To my 2019 thru-hikers:
I use the word “my” because I feel so protective of you all.
Your bodies, your joints, your egos, your confidence.
I don’t even know you all, but I don’t have to because I’ve struggled, as you will this year.
I’ve endured the feels, the rain, the cold, the pain, the frustrations, the whys you will be experiencing here shortly.
I have some advice for you, but first, a caveat.
I am just like you.
I am not any better or more legitimate than you are simply because I finished my journey last year.
If anything, I wish to be you solely because you are at the beginning of a journey that I miss so dearly.
And I admire you for facing one of the greatest challenges you’ll ever take on.
But please, take this advice knowing I only mean well.
I promise: it will get better *in the end.*
In the end being the key words.
Anyone who tells you the trail will get easier, your legs will transform to be indestructible hiker legs, your pack weight will drop, they are encouraging you not to quit.
But the truth is, the trail isn’t going to get easier. In fact, Georgia to Harpers Ferry is a cakewalk; Maryland is easy too; Pennsylvania is fun; and it really doesn’t get serious until Vermont-New Hampshire-Maine.
And yes, your legs will somewhat transform into “hiker legs”—-but you’ll still feel pain. Your joints will still hurt and you’ll still have to stretch.
And no, your pack weight won’t really drop too much unless if you start out completely new without any shakedowns. If anything, you’re more than likely to add weight in food and water since your hiker hunger will grow, and the water sources become more scarce the farther north you go (you’ll have to carry more water = 1L Smartwater bottle is ~2.2 pounds).
I tell you these truths so that you know this is all normal. You aren’t doing anything wrong.
But I especially give you this advice so that you can’t say no one ever told you to enjoy the moment.
When the trail in Rocksylvania is twisting your ankles, and the nasty, contaminated/dried up water sources in Virginia/New York seem endless, cherish it. Because I promise you, it will be gone before you know it.
When the days seem long, and the miles seem endless, and the sweat won’t stop pouring into your eyes, and all you can smell is yourself, feel blessed you aren’t showered clean at home in front of your television. Because who hasn’t already had a lifetime of possessions?
Fill yourself with your natural surroundings and breathe in the beauty. It may seem like forever in those moments, but it’s not. They’re brief and fleeting.
And of course, none of my previous advice is meant to discredit how you feel as you go through the struggle. Please know that.
Yes, it’s going to suck when you have to ration your water because the comment on Guthook from last week says the next water source is more than likely contaminated due to some road runoff, or dried up.
And yes, it’s going to suck when you twist your good ankle for the third time on those darn rocks in Pennsylvania after making it the last two hours without doing so.
And yes, you will feel indestructible as you gain your confidence via miles and distance, and I think that’s why it’s even more important to remind you to listen to your body.
Yes, you will have days when you wake up at 5/6 a.m. and get out of camp before 6/7 a.m., and you cover big ground.
But you will also have days when you wake up and you feel a little extra sore. There will be days when you wake up and the rain has no sign of letting up. And there will be days when you wake up and realize you need to make it to town before you run out of food.
Please know all of this is part of your journey.
There is no real picture to what thru-hiking looks like.
The only real piece of advice anyone can give you is to enjoy every moment because it will be pass before you know it.
**A very special shout-out to WhyNot, Rabbit Foot, and Catch-Up. Thank you for inspiring these words and letting me live through your journeys. You guys are going to crush it!
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